“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Dates: 18th June 2016 – 2nd July 2016
Accommodation: Hotel Parque Tropical
Another summer and another visit to Playa del Ingles. After a hectic holiday of sightseeing and city hopping last summer in the US, we decided to take it easy on our 2 week holiday this year and take a trip back to Gran Canaria – and probably our last visit there for the next few years.
As the European Championships were in full flight, we arrived with plenty of time to spare for our flight, turning up in Dublin Airport a full 3 hours before our 2.30pm flight. This is probably where the nice part ends for the airport. Ronan and I had both planed to get a nice full Irish breakfast in the airport. As there was only the 2 of us, we took it in turns to queue for our food in The Garden Terrace so that someone could look after our bags. Unfortunately, they only appeared to have very minimal staff on and only 1 person serving the breakfast and so by the time I eventually reached the top of the queue, 12 o’clock had come and with it, the breakfast menu leaving me with only a few pieces of bacon, a fried egg and some beans. So much for my “full Irish” and poor Ronan having too out up with a very “hangry” Hannah for about half an hour. However, once I got my “breakfast” eaten, I perked right back up and the excitement for the holiday began to kick back in again. With that, we headed towards our gate – conveniently located beside one of the airport bars where we could watch the start of the Ireland v Belgium game which kicked off at 2pm. In all of the excitement of the match, we somehow missed the first boarding calls for our flight, and only just heard the final boarding call, which lead to my downing what was left of my drink and Ronan leaving the best part of two thirds of his pint behind and us running to our gate to board. On a happier note, it’s been the only time we’ve never queued to board a flight.
Our first week was mostly spent with days relaxing by the swimming pool with Ronan attempting to teach me how to swim and evenings at our usual local, Molly Malones. As always, holiday friends were made in Mollys, who we met up with on numerous occasions with in the evenings. Perhaps one of the best highlights of our night’s in Molly’s was getting Ronan on camera doing karaoke, although I’m sure he’d disagree.
To add to the fun, Shona, a good friend of mine, joined us for a few days towards the end of our first week, from late on the Wednesday until Monday. On Shona’s first day with us, relaxing by our pool, she was surprised to hear that on all of our holidays to Gran Canaria, we somehow never had Sangria. Shona was quick to change this for us, ordering a nice litre jug for us to share. The fruit pieces in particular went down very well with Ronan. People are very right in saying that it’s a very refreshing drink to have on a hot summer’s day. Definitely noted for any BBQ’s we may have during the summer – that’s if we get a summer in Ireland, of course.
Shona was lucky enough to arrive just in time to join us for the San Juan celebrations on the 23rd June. At about 9pm we headed down to the beach, where we enjoyed an evening of fireworks, light processions lead by samba bands and some music with hundreds of locals and tourists alike. This was a great spectacle and although we left on the early side, you could have easily stayed until the early hours of the morning.
Our Saturday night out was perhaps one of the most interesting and enjoyable nights we had over the holiday. Myself, Ronan and Shona, along with the holiday friends we made, Amy and Michelle, made our way to the Yumbo centre (the area in Playa del Ingles most famous for it’s gay bars) for a night of drag shows and dancing. It was honestly one of the most enjoyable nights out I had and would certainly recommend going to the Yumbo centre for some fun and dancing. The high lights of the night included Shona deciding to show the bar her pole dancing skills (and was joined by a drag queen at one point), Ronan seeing more than he imagined of a drag queen and most of us dancing with the drag queens on stage after the show. All in all, an amazing night.
Of course, no trip to Gran Canaria would be complete without a visit to the water park, Aqua Land. Shona managed to join us for a few hours before her flight left. We had a brilliant day here, trying out some of the new slides that weren’t there last time we visited, like The Spiral, the Water Labyrinth (which Ronan managed to mangle himself on the first time he had a go) and the Racer Twin Turbolance. Since Ronan had gotten me a little more comfortable swimming, he managed to convince me to for onto the Crazy Racers as our first slide, something I never thought I’d do. However, once was certainly enough for me, something Shona agreed with for a while, before having a change of heart and going again not long before she left (and very nearly without a bikini top).
When Shona left, we grabbed a small bite to eat in the water park (seating us back €30 for burgers and chips – for future reference we should bring our own food), and the afternoon began to heat up in earnest. The ground began to get so hot that it was virtually impossible to walk on without a pair of flip flops. Unfortunately for Ronan, that wasn’t something he had brought with him and so ended up standing in a small bit of shade and not being able to walk anywhere with the scorching heat of the ground. Conveniently for him, we had noticed earlier in the day that the gift shop sold aqua runners for the great price of €9, so Ronan very nicely handed over the keys to the locker to me to get his wallet to pick him up a pair. Although I did have my flip flops, I decided to get a pair for myself also, as they were much more easy to wear than flip flops on the slides, as you didn’t have to take them off. They were a great investment and will definitely be going into our suitcases when we head on our big trip.
On this trip to Gran Canaria, we finally got the chance to visit Palmitos Park and it was 100% worth visiting. After visiting Aqua Land, we got a €8.50 discount voucher, which also allowed us to join the much shorter queue at Palmitos Park. For people planning to visit both parks, I’d recommend going to the water park first to make better use of the voucher and shorter queue. This day out was one of the highlights of the trip for me – the butterfly house was beautiful (we managed to hold some butterflies on the tops of our hands thanks to a very helpful worker), and the variety of birds, reptiles and mammals on display was incredible. However, the icing on the cake were the bird and dolphin shows. The end of the exotic bird show had all of their exotic birds fly overhead and it felt like we had suddenly ended up in South America. My favourite bit of the day by far though was the opportunity to get some photographs with the dolphins. It was €30 for 2 photographs, so it would be expensive if you had a lot of children with you, but it was honestly the best €30 I spent on the holiday.
The only unfortunate downside we had on our trip was the sad closure of our favourite “local” Molly Malones, half way through our holiday. We tried out some of the other bars but none of them quite lived up to the atmosphere and enjoy-ability of Mollys. Luckily, we did have several great evenings in the Red Onion, where there was live music every evening, It was a great spot to start your night, with great music and banter from the Anna Liffey Band. The band were brilliant, with a music set that got the crowd good and lively. The staff were very attentive with an amazing sense of humour and are sure to make you feels welcome and give you a good giggle. They are also nearly too generous with their measurements of spirits. However, things tend to quieten down here come 11pm when the music finishes, as you get a lot of families going to this bar. We popped to the bar/club upstairs one evening (it was called Flanagan’s, as far as I know). We had a great night here and the staff were amazingly fun, but it just wasn’t quite the same.
On a nicer note, our hotel was absolutely fabulous. After our first visit to Gran Canaria, we always said we would love to stay in Hotel Parque Tropical, and finally, 3 years later, we finally treated ourselves. Our room was on the 8th floor of “the tower” at the front of the hotel. It was a fabulous room with views of the beach ad the whole of Playa del Ingles. The only slight downside of the room was that it was a little noisy, as there was a bus stop just outside the hotel. But we could cope with that.
Breakfast was included for us, and it amazingly tasty every morning. There was a huge range of pastries every morning with a slight change on what was on offer every day, so you wouldn’t get bored. Options included the usual croissants, scrambled eggs, sausages and so on, but quite often there were waffles with chocolate, sweet potato puff pastries (which were very popular with Ronan), a vast choice of breads, jams and fruits and champagne.
The hotel did have entertainment on every night, which included flamenco dancers and magicians. We decided to enjoy evening entertainment off site however and so we can’t give much of a review on the evening time fun in the hotel. However, the hotel did run a full time table of day time activities also, including Bingo (where the winner could win a drink from the bar), Aqua Aerobics, a weekly Spanish class, pool tournaments and a weekly Paella Party on a Sunday with a traditional Canarian band and dancers. The Paella Party is definitely worth taking a Sunday afternoon off for, as the Canarian band and dancers were fabulous.
A nice, relaxing holiday was had overall. A few little bumps were had along the way, as always, but they smoothed over nicely and we were left with lovely memories and a lot more relaxed, thanks in part to a lot of lazing by the swimming pool and a massage in the hotel. One of the most important things of the holiday, for me, was amazingly learning how to swim. After 2 weeks of Ronan getting me into the swimming pool every day, on our last day I finally managed to swim a full width of the pool. It seemed to come out of no where, and Ronan was even left a little gob smacked that I just swam. A big thank you to Ronan, for sure, as it means one step closer for me to be able to snorkel in Australia next year.
Please click on the links in the blog to find out more information about the accommodation and activities including prices, photos and videos.